James Keeler and Peter Wothers

Oxford University Press

2014 | 877pp | £47.99

ISBN 9780199604135

Chemical structure and reactivity aims to present the topics usually covered in an undergraduate chemistry course in a more holistic way than the traditional organic, inorganic, physical boxes many are familiar with. Such an interdisciplinary approach is often discussed as a way to teach chemistry, but it can be difficult to achieve. 

This book does a very good job of the task. The structure of the text lends itself well to the approach, with section one focusing on the fundamental concepts that underlie all fields of chemistry setting the scene for the more traditional treatment of in-depth descriptions in section two. The two sections do not exist in isolation, however, and the reader is regularly directed to consider how the subject material is related to the fundamental concepts established early on. Throughout the book, figures are used extensively to illustrate the concepts, and these are both useful and informative. There are no superfluous or merely decorative images or figures allowing the student to concentrate solely on the subject matter.

Owing to the nature of the fundamentals of chemistry, at times the topics seem to be presented from a physical chemistry standpoint. This could be a hindrance to the book’s adoption as a course text as this order may not be the one applied, or thought most logical, when teaching an undergraduate chemistry course. In addition, the size of the book cannot (and does not) hope to cover all aspects of a course, so acting as a stand-alone text is difficult (the end of chapter signposts to additional texts are therefore invaluable). The self-test questions littered through each chapter are equally useful and the provision of answers allows the reader not just to test themselves, but also assess their own progress. 

Overall this is a useful textbook, particularly in highlighting the importance and applicability of fundamental theory across chemistry. It will definitely find a use in my arsenal of undergraduate teaching resources. 

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